Concerning the LGSS
By Lanxi Li, Grade 7
In all my years of schooling, I have learned two main ways to write – the five-paragraph essay and the Look Good Sound Smart (LGSS) formula for answering open-ended questions. In elementary school, they called the LGSS by a different name: the Better Answers formula. It doesn’t matter what the teachers call it, I am thoroughly sick of LGSS.
Unfortunately, teachers still love the LGSS; they lay it down as if they were cradling darling little babies, gently. They throw bundles of LGSS prompts at their students with their faces shining like Christmas lights.
The LGSS is a dictator that tells you what you should write. It can be divided into several steps: the restate, gist, list, reaction, and conclusion. (The reaction is optional, unless it is stated clearly in the prompt.) After you memorize these steps, you swallow them and regurgitate them onto a piece of paper, which you then turn in to a teacher. I’ve probably written over a hundred of LGSS pieces in this way.
But, enough! Ranting for pages and pages – until the subject is reduced to dust – does not do the LGSS justice. Dull as it may seem, the LGSS is indeed a structure, and a very helpful structure, I admit, for struggling writers, one that they can discard when they start getting the hang of writing. After all, in the pool, it’s best to master floating before the freestyle and, with lined paper, conquering the LGSS is one more step to complete creative freedom.
So, I suggest changing the LGSS a little. Some of the steps could be more optional. The gist would be better as something more original than “for many reasons”. For example, “Harper Lee’s family life was, if anything, very difficult”, instead of “Harper Lee’s family life was difficult for several reasons”. The list, the bulk of the piece, could be equally functional as two very developed reasons instead of the usual three. But these are all “coulds” and “optionals.” The LGSS framework is quick and easy, and I don’t want to change that.
But, to come back to the rant, I have a freedom of speech, but no freedom after the speech. I know that once I decide to publish this complaint, adults will gasp and let their jaws drop to the floor. I know that no matter how much calamine lotion I coat over this complaint, the general idea will still sting those who value the LGSS. So, maybe I should have published this piece like -anonymously.
Note from Teacher: Lanxi Li’s extremely well-written personal opinion column or editorial effectively details her thoughts about the cons and pros of LGSS. She has articulated concerns that are shared by many of her teachers. The beauty of a framework is ease and familiarity. The failing of a framework is, too often, conformity that leads to the stifling of creativity. So Lanxi, you make several excellent points and have given your teachers points to ponder. Now let me get to the task of lifting my jaw off the floor. (Only kidding.)